Highlights and Aces: The Best of Tennis – 2014

2014 proved a memorable year with surprise upsets, historic victories and unexpected exits from the sport. Here’s a look back, and remember, these selections are my personal opinion.

Players of the Year: Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams

The up and down yet ultimately year-end No. 1 finishing seasons for both Djokovic and Williams had similar parallels for each player.

Williams, known for dominating at the majors, found herself exiting early in the first week in Melbourne, Roland Garros (where she was defending champion) and Wimbledon. She turned things around in the late summer by winning Stanford, Cincinnati and then the US Open to earn her 18th Grand Slam title. She ended the season by once again winning the WTA Championships. Her 2014 season, not perfect by any means, but perhaps one of her most satisfying given how often she struggled but still found a way to finish the year at No. 1.

With all the discussion once again on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, it was Djokovic who proved the constant force during the year. Despite Grand Slam disappointments in Australia and Roland Garros, Djokovic played and won the match of the year against Federer to win his second Wimbledon title. He struggled with form and confidence during the hard court season but once again flourished in the late season culminating in yet another ATP Finals trophy. At age 27, Djokovic’s impact and legacy in the sport is likely just beginning.

Best Men’s Match:
Novak Djokovic v. Roger Federer – Wimbledon Final

Honorable Mentions:

Rafael Nadal v. Novak Djokovic – Roland Garros Final
Andy Murray v. Tommy Robredo – Valencia Final
Novak Djokovic v. Stan Wawrinka – Australian Open QFs

Best Women’s Match:
Simona Halep v. Maria Sharapova – Roland Garros Final

Honorable Mentions:

Belinda Bencic v. Jana Cepelova – Charleston SFs
Petra Kvitova v. Venus Williams – Wimbledon Third Round
Serena Williams v. Caroline Wozniacki – WTA Championships SFs

Most Fascinating Player to Watch: Stan Wawrinka

If 2014 was embodied as a season in one player it has to be Stan Wawrinka who experienced career changing highs and often head-scratching lows almost on a monthly basis. After his surprise but well-earned Australian Open title giving him his first major, Wawrinka spent most of the first half of the season trying to sort out his new place in the ATP hierarchy. Watching Wawrinka as he tried to navigate his new fame and the increased expectations placed on him was, at times, as engaging as seeing him strike his sublime one handed backhand.

Wawrinka turned things around and provided us more thrills and drama in the final weeks of the season. His heartbreaking loss to Roger Federer in the ATP Finals then turned into the sport’s biggest off-court drama, at least for a weekend, over Federer’s wife calling him a “cry-baby” during the match leading to a testy exchange between both men afterwards. Both men quickly forgot all about it as they went on to win Switzerland’s first ever Davis Cup title with Wawrinka earning MVP status. Off-court drama returned though as Wawrinka found himself in a bizarre bathroom confrontation with several French Davis Cup team members who didn’t quite like what Wawrinka had to say about them that week. All was forgiven in the end allowing Wawrinka to revel in his best season ever. “The Stanimal” will earn more roars of approval from fans if he keeps up his tour changing ways in 2015 and from the press corps if he keeps creating more off-court headlines.

I Would Like To Thank…

Li Na and Andrea Petkovic for two of the best trophy acceptance speeches in this or any other year.

Li Na – Australian Open

Andrea Petkovic – Charleston

Best Performance in a Final: Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova and her remarkable tour de force performance to win her second Wimbledon title over Eugenie Bouchard ranks as of the best ever in recent Grand Slam history. In one word, wow.

Are We Really Going To Do This Again?

Yes, let’s look back at the rather unnecessary but highly entertaining conversation Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic shared in Dubai. Make note of Annabel Croft’s reaction as she stands in the background just after Jankovic and Williams shake hands.

Biggest Breakthroughs:
Eugenie Bouchard (Wimbledon Final), Marin Cilic (Winner, US Open) Simona Halep (Roland Garros Final and WTA Championships Final), Nick Kyrgios (Defeating Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon), Kei Nishikori (US Open Final)

Glad to Have You Back:
Venus Williams and David Goffin

After several years of struggle, Venus Williams enjoy a resurgence in 2014. That included reaching three finals, including winning the Dubai title, and defeating younger sister Serena Williams in Montreal, a win that help propel Venus back inside the top 20 again.

Having undergone wrist surgery, Belgium’s David Goffin started the year outside of the top 100. But “La Goff” got hot in the summer winning three Challenger titles, then his first ATP title in Kitzbuehl, He picked up his second title at the Moselle Open before finishing the season at a career high No. 22.

Marathon Woman

Caroline Wozniacki, just weeks after reaching the US Open final, ran and finished the New York City Marathon in three hours and 26 minutes. An impressive and inspiring achievement given that many thought Wozniacki was joking when she first revealed she would train for the marathon earlier in the year. Not only did Wozniacki raise $80,000 for her charity “Team for Kids, but her goal paid off for her on the tennis court with improved stamina that played a large part in her returning to the top ten this season.

Rally for Bally

In Madrid, many players came together for this moving, silent tribute to Elena Baltacha whose sudden death stunned the tennis world.

A former UK No. 1, Baltacha won 11 singles titles and competed on the UK Olympic and Fed Cup teams. Having retired in 2013, Baltacha revealed she was diagnosed with liver cancer in March this year and passed away only two months later in May. She was only 30 years old.

Thanks for the Memories

All the best to Nikolay Davydenko, Stephanie Dubois, Nicole Grandin, Iveta Melzer (formerly Benesova), Li Na, Olivier Rochus and Dinara Safina who all announced their official retirements this year.

How Did They Do That?

Let’s end 2014 with the point of the year courtesy of Bob and Mike Bryan and Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo at the ATP Finals in London. See you in 2015.


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